BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | This Aquebogue home recently renovated by owner/builder Daniel Cartagena is on the market for $279,000.
Home-buying can be stressful for anyone. But for buyers shopping at the more affordable end of the North Fork price spectrum – say, under $300,000 – a slim inventory and a high-demand area can make the process even harder.
So what can one expect to find?
For one, competition.
“It’s a very popular slot price-wise,” said Pat Wilson with Colony Realty in Jamesport.
Second, be prepared to get your hands dirty.
“I would imagine there would be some work that would need to be done,” said Sheri Winter Clarry of Corcoran in Southold.
And third, understand that the house itself will likely be somewhat modest — but it will be yours.
“You’ll find a fairly decent starting house,” said Patrick Fedun with Fedun Real Estate in Aquebogue.
In addition to a North Fork market that’s inherently competitive due to its location, real estate overall appears to be on the rebound, making homes in the $300,000 area tough to come by.
Mr. Fedun added that, so far this year, “we’re pretty much back to normal with what’s going on with sales. If you look at what was going on five years ago, it’s pretty much the same.”
This year’s numbers to date tend to confirm this.
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The kitchen and living room of Mr. Cartagena’s house. In order to create an open floor plan, he added a steel beam between the two areas.
According to Suffolk Research Service, a real estate data tracking firm, median home values in Riverhead Town bottomed out last year, when the median price of a single-family home fell to $320,000. So far this year, it’s jumped to $349,000. In 2009, the median home price was $355,000.
The number of sales in the $150,000 to $300,000 range has picked up as well, particularly since the beginning of 2012.
Last year, 111 homes in that range were sold in Riverhead, well above the 74 sold in 2011. Through mid-August 2013, 68 homes priced at or under $300,000 had been sold. The median selling price in the range is up 3.8 percent this year over last.
“We’ve been incredibly busy this year,” Ms. Wilson said. “We started running in January and have been selling and showing since. I think we’ve had a hell of a year.”
Ms. Wilson is currently showing one home listed for $279,000. While most homes on that end of the overall real estate market can be expected to have some wear and tear, this three-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom ranch in Aquebogue was renovated by the owner and sports granite countertops, new appliances and more. It’s more the exception than the rule, however.
“Unfortunately, a majority are in horrendous shape,” Ms. Wilson said.
Many of those homes end up staying on the market for extended periods, she said, creating a cycle that makes it harder and harder for a first-time homebuyer — or any buyer in the price range — to invest their money, as neglected homes get no better over time. Some vacated short sales currently on the market have sat for over a year.
For first-time buyers, Suffolk County recently jump-started a program that offers up to $14,000 in down payment assistance for qualified individuals buying homes costing up to $333,000. Applicants have until the end of October to apply; as of Sept. 19 — less than three weeks after the county started taking applications — 64 people had applied. In total, the county is offering $500,000 in down payment assistance.
In the meantime, interest rates have risen more than a full percentage point from an all-time low of 3.38 percent about a year ago.
Aidan Wood, senior vice president with Bridgehampton National Bank, said he’s noticed more movement in purchases on the East End this year, as refinancing has slowed with rising interest rates.
Mr. Fedun echoed Mr. Wood’s sentiments.
“We’ve seen a good jump in [purchasing] interest because interest rates have gone up,” he said. “It’s encouraged people to buy a little bit. We’ll see where it goes.”
To see some examples of affordable homes on the market, northforker.com features regular North Fork real estate segments, Three Under 300K and Three Under 350K.